Baltimore Orioles: Are Infield Shifts Hurting Baseball?
I’ll be honest in that I”m not a fan of the infield shift – as it’s used today, that is. Buck Showalter uses it with the Baltimore Orioles, but I’m not sure that anyone does it as often as teams such as Tampa and Houston. I’m not sure why I don’t like it, but it just comes off as non-traditional to me.
And the fact is that the shift, while thought to be a modern invention, is fairly old. It was used as far back as the 1920’s against Cy Williams, and then again against Ted Williams later on. However I would submit that it didn’t really become a “thing” until Joe Maddon started using it in the late 2000’s with Tampa. After Maddon starting using them and using them effectively, the infield shift caught on big time and has been a part of the sport ever since.
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Now let me preface the comments below by saying that I’m a fan of both offense and pitching. In effect, I think that the
game should shake down naturally as opposed to being forced. And there are times when I would submit that the game comes off as somewhat forced when there’s almost a shift put on for each batter. That’s not an “absolute analysis,” but it’s just my view.
Every hitter has a spray chart, which shows where they generally hit the ball. Mind you, nobody’s spray chart is going to show them not focusing on one main area of the field. Granted some hitters cover the field in full better than others, however nobody has the entire area “covered” in full. However by employing the shift, teams are all but ensuring that hitters will record outs if they hit the ball to their specialized area. Is that not in effect removing offense from the game?
Believe me, I’m not one of these people who thinks defense shouldn’t be a part of the game. But let’s not go overboard. And in fairness, it’s also worth mentioning that hitters should have to adjust at some point as well. There’s no reason bunts can’t start going down more often to combat the shift (and I’m talking league-wide here, not just about the Orioles) and so forth.
However again, I would submit that these shifts are all but removing offense from the games. And when that starts to happen, games can get really boring really quickly from the perspective of casual fans. And by the way, I’m not in favor of banning shifts either. I know that might sound strange after saying all of this, but you can’t legislate ill parts of the game out at the snap of a finger. What I’m saying is that I wish more managers would try to simply record outs by pitching as opposed to circumventing things.